Friday, July 13, 2012

Getting Acquainted with the Bugs of Summer

Last summer, I really got to know the local insects. It turns out that we have more varieties of insects in Wisconsin than I was aware of. After taking notice of a few different bugs, I decided it would be fun to photograph everything that crawled by. Taking the following photos and studying them turned out to be a great learning experience for me!

Closely viewing these insects is going to be a little like watching the movie Them! So if you're at all sensitive to creepy crawlies, especially spiders, you might want to close out of this page.

One insect I learned a lot about was the firefly. Believe it or not, I didn't know what they looked like in the daylight until last summer. I told some of my friends (who are from more rural areas) about my discovery and they thought it was funny. I guess this was common knowledge for them! For my part, I was glad to know what those "funny looking beetles" were on my plants.

Check out his feet! They look like little hands.

If you look closely, you can see some yellow near this firefly's butt area. I assume that's what we see light up.

I also learned that if I stood still in the dark of night and flashed my camera, lots of fireflies would approach me. It was a magical experience to be surrounded by these little glowing bugs in an otherwise dark space. I learned later that the fireflies interpret glowing as a mating signal. So I guess I came across as a giant bug giving them the wrong idea!

Another new bug I learned about was the cicada. I first got to know these guys when I found one of their shells. As anyone who's seen a cicada knows, they're quite large. At first I thought the shell was a giant bug, then I saw the slit where the cicada had emerged.

Yeah, that's its shell! To give you an idea of how large a cicada is, I flipped the shell onto a tissue and placed a quarter next to it.

Do you see the slit in the back area? That's where he came out of his little cicada coat.

I later came across a cicada who was in the process of shedding his shell! The cicada is sort of sitting on the shell he just emerged from in this picture. I guess I'm the first thing he saw in his new form. What lucky timing!

They really are beautiful and not at all dangerous. Look at these wings!

There are many videos online of cicadas who are in the process of molting their shells. I found a quick time lapse video that will give you an idea of what I witnessed:

After my cicada and firefly experiences, I was ready to photograph more local insects. I was familiar with all of the next ones already, but it was interesting to see them up close. There are so many beautiful details that you might not have noticed. We're used to brushing these things away or swatting at them, but you'll actually be able to observe them in these photos.

This one is the Japanese Beetle. They came to Wisconsin in droves last year and tore through many people's rose gardens. They're nasty bugs who tear holes through rose petals and leaves. They're beautiful in their way but very destructive. For the many I saw last year, I haven't seen one this summer! My guess is that it's been too dry for them.

If you look closely, you can see the little hairs on this one's legs. I suggest clicking on these photos to enlarge them, if you can take it!

I know this one is just a boring old ant, but it's still interesting to see it up close.

Honestly, I was kind of scared as I photographed this next one. I don't know what kind of spider this is, and you never know what's poisonous.

I actually feel creeped out even looking at my own photo! I swear I just now felt like something was crawling on my neck. That must be the psychological affect of looking at creepy spider photos! Here's another view of him:

I like the Daddy Long Legs spiders, but there's something about these big, squishy looking ones...

This dragonfly is a little more innocent looking. He nearly blends into the environment with his iridescent wings.

Next we have a closeup view of a hornet who was safely on the other side of a window. I never realized that their legs have stripes on them. Then again, I never wanted to study a hornet closely. I'm usually just hoping not to get stung.

These I always thought were cute, but I've been told that Chiggers can bite and hurt a person pretty badly.

I know that fuzzy white caterpillars are lethal to plants, but aren't they cute and soft looking? Check out those little legs!

This grasshopper really blended in to the sand and wood around him. Looking closer, I saw a cool zigzag type pattern on his hind legs.

I haven't a clue about the following insects. Does anyone know what these are?

I found this next one to be the ickiest of the mystery insects. I was just sitting outside minding my own business, and this thing came trotting along.

I usually have my camera with me, so I was ready to photograph it. This bug was incredibly small, so I was surprised to see it in detail after loading this photo on my computer. It's just so weird! I thought it might be some kind of larvae, but it's walking.

This next one was really tiny and creepy. Do you think this might be a tick? That's my best guess so far. It looks similar to the tick photos I've seen online. As I remember, it was hopping around.

After last summer, I started referring to myself as "The Insect Paparazzi". Luckily, every little critter I photographed was well behaved and I wasn't stung or bitten while getting close to them. I feel especially lucky if the above photo is of a tick.

Speaking of semi-creepy things in nature, I observed something amazing yesterday and I just had to share it. Some of my snapdragons have gone to seed and here's what was left of them:

Snapdragon skulls! Look at these expressions. Some of them even have noses. For those who aren't familiar with Snapdragons, here's what their flowers look like:

If you managed to survive looking through all these creepy insect photos and flower skeletons, you deserve a treat! So here's a little music to go with the title of this post:

...and here's a little silliness to go with your music:

Update as of July 18! I just took a photo of this little guy today as he was lounging on a leaf. I took about ten photos of him and he didn't even seem afraid of the camera! He was maybe an inch long at largest. Do you guys think this might be a butterfly? He had a really fuzzy body.


  1. I have never seen a cicada before! Found the shells and sure hear them plenty. Very cool!

  2. Very nice photos, I especially like the one of the firefly in flight :)

  3. Great shots Justine. That was a very cool post. Although you missed out on our nemisis, the wood tick. We are infested with them down here in Northern Illinois. Lucky no friends made it in the house.

  4. Insects are fascinating. Even if not all of them are enjoyable to look at up close. Great photos!

  5. You have some interesting bugs in this post! I love summer bugs. My boys can spend all day chasing them.

  6. Haha. So you're sending out false mating signals to the fireflies. You're a bug tease! ;) Oh dear! I feel a reference coming on...

    PENGUIN: You lousy minx, I oughta have you spayed! You sent out all the signals!

    Actually, I have never seen a firefly, but I after some googling I discovered we do have them in Australia. Their habitat seems to be in the northern states.

    We've definitely got cicadas. On hot days in summer, the noise of their chirping can be unbelievably loud!

    The snapdragon skulls are very cool! You did a beautiful job with the photography throughout this post! :)

  7. Lisa ~ Well, now you know what comes out of those shells! Or maybe you knew, but just hadn't seen a cicada flying around. Aren't those shells crazy? They almost look like little crustaceans. It's amazing to me that those light as air shells retain the cicada's shape. Yes, they definitely have a distinctive sound. I didn't know which insect was producing that noise until last year!

    Raymond ~ Thank you! :) I like that photo a lot too. Part of what I like is his little shadow. Before taking that one, I probably took a million others. Fireflies are very difficult to photograph in detail. My neighbors were probably wondering what I was doing running around in the dark. :) I felt like a grade school kid while trying to photograph these!

    The October Boy ~ Thanks! :) I just googled pics of the wood tick to see how it is different from other ticks. I'm kind of wishing I hadn't done that... They look like absolute monsters close up. Do you think that my last bug picture was of a tick? It looks possible. Maybe it's a weird little spider. I did read that ticks are arachnids.

    So you're infested with these little guys? That's terrible! They haven't made their way up to the Milwaukee area, as far as I know. You might be in a more rural area than I am, and I'm sure that makes all the difference to a wood tick!

    Halloween Spirit ~ Thank you! :) Yes, they are fascinating. I couldn't believe the patterns on some of these bugs. We can't see some of these details without the help of a magnifying glass or camera. Plus it's more relaxing and safe feeling to study a photo than an actual insect. :)

    Jessica ~ Do your sons catch any bugs in jars, like the fireflies? Hopefully they don't bring any of their little friends in the house. :) Now I'm thinking of the little boys in sitcoms or cartoons that bring frogs into the house!

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ "A bug tease" :) I'm afraid that I am inadvertently! I laughed so hard when I read what signals I was giving off. I thought "So, that's why they're all coming over..."

    HA! I remember that Penguin moment! Very appropriate! Yeah, I'm a bug minx now. We can add that to my resume under "insect paparazzi". ;)

    I found you a great YouTube video of fireflies in action! You'll see their usual bug form seen in my daylight pics, and what they look like lit up. You'll also get an idea of how hard it is to keep up with them!

    Catching Fireflies at Night

    Oh yeah, the cicadas can really get chirping! Do your cicadas look just like ours? Now I'm curious about all our animal and insect differences. :)

    Yeah! How cool that snapdragons have their own little skulls like the rest of us. I don't know of any other plants with "skulls", but there might be some. What struck me is that each of the skulls had a different expression. The minute I picked those up, a countless amount of seeds fell out of them. So I guess there will be some happy birds!

    Thanks so much. :) I had a lot of fun while photographing all these little critters.

  8. What an awesome collection of bugs! Nice pictures! Getting shots like that took some patience!

  9. Kweeny ~ Thank you! :) Well, getting good shots of the fireflies definitely took some patience. It took a few nights to get clear photos of them. Most of the other bugs just crawled on over and sat still while I took their picture. I'm kind of surprised that they weren't more afraid of a giant camera closing in on them!

  10. A Lot of those "Fluffy" caterpillars have Very toxic stingers... ...So Look But Do Not Touch...( This is not true of all "fluffy" ones ... but better "safe" than injured...

  11. That firefly film was amazing to me. Thank you! :) I can't believe their butts really flick on and off like flashlights. For some reason I thought they might just have a fluorescent glow or something.

    Your snapdragon skulls remind me of the snapdragons in the Other Mother's world in 'Coraline'. I don't know if you've ever seen the film, but they actually have little snapping dragon heads. I came across a blog post about the garden theme of 'Coraline' if you're interested:

    I'll send you a pic of an Australian cicada. :)

  12. Dr. Theda ~ Thanks for the tip! Your warning made me curious so I just did some online research. Sounds like the caterpillars have these little barbs that can cause itching, stinging, and rashes. Not fun! It's ironic, because that caterpillar looked like one of the safest things pictured here. I can imagine that a lot of people do want to reach out and touch them, since they're so fuzzy. I'm glad I didn't now!

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ You're welcome! :) So, this was your very first time seeing fireflies in action! Now, I'm really glad I posted that video. Oh yeah, they flick on and off like that. Sometimes, you can have one right next to you and not even realize it. Then a little light blinks right in front of you! It's a pretty cool experience. Hey, maybe you need to visit American in both summer and autumn! :)

    I haven't seen 'Coraline' yet, which is kind of bizarre. I mean, that should be my kind of movie! Oh, Snapdragons that actually snap. I always have wondered why they're called Snapdragons. I like those glowing Bleeding Hearts too! I'm with the blogger who posted those. I want my Bleeding Hearts to glow too!

    I'd love to see a pic of an Australian cicada. I look forward to that!

  13. The unarmed spider looks like a good pattern for some Halloween art. Like a silhouette!

  14. Count Matt ~ I agree! That spider has a beautiful form. The lines on those curving legs would make a great silhouette! We can see a lot of his joints in these photos. I actually really like to draw and paint pictures of spiders.

  15. Yeesh! So many creepy crawlies, so little time! I love this one, especially the "Them" trailer at the end; perfect touch!

    Oh, and by the way, you just won The Liebster Award. Go pick it up!

    - TGWD

  16. The Great White Dope ~ Well, that is a whole summer's worth of creepy crawlies. :) Looking at these enlarged photos of bugs makes me feel like I'm watching "Them!" Except these bugs were playing nice and not full of radiation...

    Thanks for the award! :) I'm notoriously antisocial with these blog awards, but I'll leave you some answers in your comments. I got a kick out of the answers you posted!

  17. The pictures are very good but for some reason I feel itchy.

  18. Adsila ~ Thanks! :) Haha! Me too and these are my pictures! Seeing this many little legs makes me feel like something is crawling on me...

  19. These shots are awesome, Justine! I have never even contemplated taking pictures of bugs but it actually looks like fun, exploring the different species of bugs in your garden sounds so interesting! When we get around to re-landscaping our garden it might bring more bugs in!

    I used to see fireflies all the time when I camped at my friends farm in the country, it was always fun to watch them!

    I used to collect ladybirds when I was little, I would have a plastic container with holes poked in the lid and lots of grass and twigs for them to climb on, I would let them go again after I got bored of watching them haha.

    I've never seen or heard of a cicada but they sure look interesting! I love how they push themselves our of their shell like that, it's so strange to think they leave that completely intact outer skin behind!

    I just looked them up on wikipedia and people actually deep fry and eat them in Asian countries.. yuck!

    There is one interesting bug with a humorous name that we get in England called a cockchafer but it is sometimes called a may bug or a billy witch (I'm not sure you get them in the states) They have quite the infamous reputation! I've only ever seen one ion real like but they are quite big!

    *skin crawls* xxx

  20. Also, guess who loves you? Me!

  21. Vain Glory Sinner ~ Thank you! :) You should totally photograph some insects. I want to see the British bugs! You guys might have some different ones. It sounds like you don't have cicadas anyway. They are kind of elusive here. I mean, I never saw one in my life until last year!

    I bet as you re-landscape your yard you'll run into a few critters. Every time I dig around in the dirt I find worms, colonies of ants, and big beetles. If you want to be creeped out, lay a heavy stone in the dirt. Then lift the stone a few weeks later. There never fails to be some creepy thing under there. That old saying "It looks like he came out from under a rock" will start making sense. :)

    Eww... People are deep-frying cicadas? That's just nasty. I guess if you want a lot of bug for your buck, though...

    The "cockchafer"? Are they crawling in peoples pants or something? ;) Sorry, I had to. I'll have to google whatever those are and see if they're in the U.S.

    Kweeny ~ Aww... Thanks. :) As I said to The Great White Dope, I'm a bit anti-social with reblogging these awards. I'll shoot you an email with some answers like I did for him!

  22. Those snapdragons look really cool! That was a fun post with all the dry weather I have not seen as many bugs this summer. Have a good weekend.

  23. Erinn ~ Hey there! Welcome to my blog. :) Glad you liked the photos! Well, for the most part these pics are from last year. We've had a drought in Wisconsin for a while now. On the bright side, that means we've seen no mosquitoes! Still, I'm ready for some rain.

  24. LOL I see I'm not the only one!

    I've got a Leibster award for you...come check it out

  25. The cicadas in particular look creepy. Have you ever seen the movie The Stranger Within? It's about a man that turns into a cicada.

  26. Yeah, they do look scary! Actually the cicada's shell, or whatever it's called, is the scariest part. Those little claws! It's so funny that you mention the cicada, because just five minutes ago I found my first cicada shell of the summer! It had that slit in the back so I guess the cicada had emerged already. Strangely, it was stuck to a flower that was maybe three inches tall. Kind of a surprising place for it to choose.

    Nope, I've never seen "The Stranger Within". That story sounds terrifying. Imagine turning into that creepy of a bug, or any bug for that matter. :) Still, "The Fly" pales in comparison!